I’m reading The Middle Passage, very slowly. I wake up this morning, very slowly. I answer e-mail, read stuff on the internet, edit a piece of writing, come back here. The idea I want to write about is written about better by James Hollis in The Middle Passage, but I’ll try to say what I think about it here, at least as it relates to my life.

For some time now, I’ve felt unmoored. I’ve been remaking home. I’ve felt lost and at sea. I’ve felt I was on my way somewhere and I didn’t know where. I’ve felt and dreamt I was on a path and did’t know where it lead.

Thursday night I dreamed another path dream. This time, I wasn’t in water, as I have been in many path dreams. The road didn’t end abruptly as it often has done. Instead, I was climbing up and down mountains, then in a large house with rooms without doors, trying to see where I was headed when I was on top of the peaks, trying to find the door when I was inside the house.

This morning the theme of what I have distilled from the latest pass at Middle Passage is coming home to Self. The book talks about the first adulthood as being a time of going out in the world and the second adulthood as being a time of returning to Self. This return to Self, as Hollis says, can be misperceived as narcissism, when what it is in authentic experience is an exploration of the depth of the interior, and the bringing of who one was meant to be into fuller being, ideally to engage with the outer world.

Sounds like mumbo jumbo on one level. On another level, I’ve been feeling and dreaming it awhile, pulling up roots of relationships and projects that haven’t worked out and spending more time alone and with my thoughts than I have ever done, perhaps since early childhood, perhaps ever. The passages I read last night talked again about our human fear of being alone and how hard we work to keep the voices of our interior at bay by entertaining ourselves and distracting our minds from the self, from the realization that we are on some level alone and that must be enough.

At the same time, Hollis acknowledges the terror many of us feel at midlife when we experience great change, much of it experienced first as loss, if eventually liberation and depth. Whether it be the loss of a partner or close friends or our children or a job or a life path we thought that we were on, many of us find ourselves suddenly abandoned or abandoning, and terrified of what next and also who we are in this new place.

I’ve been experiencing the terror for some time, first losing love and marriage, then social circles and close friendships, career and educational and financial goals, my children are children growing up, and I’ve lost love again, and am trying again. The reorganization of my brain has stunned me again and again and again. How a person at midlife can reorganize experience and expectation to start again, and again, and again has been the fascination that has pulled me here to write, even as I realized my dream of starting a new school was not the project that would fulfill my dreams.

I started this blog to make a school. Instead I’ve been remaking my Self. I found Jung. I found poetry. I found writing and reading and love in it’s many forms. I found art and music. I found my children in their emerging adult selves. I found some of the larger world waiting for me in ways I hadn’t expected and I found the life inside myself and in a few close others to be richer and more fascinating than I had known.

For many years, I remembered my dreams sporadically. Those I did were profound, many dreams of houses with other rooms, of paths not taken, of fears of making change. The last four years, I’ve slept less and dreamed more than I have in any part of my life, and I’ve learned to pay attention to the dreams and to accept the night time waking as a part of the reorganization of my mind. Last night as I read The Middle Passage, and James Hollis’s suggestion that the only way back to Self is by cultivating Solitude, and his suggestion that we create rituals in our day for experiencing solitude, I thought of my wakeful nights and early mornings, and lazy times waking to the day, about my long drives and my retreats, about walking in the woods and swimming in the water, about taking photos and writing here, about reading Writer’s Almanac and going to readings, often on my own, and about how critical those have been to finding my way home at this disorienting phase of life.

I missed my kids when they were away camping at Nickerson all week. I was also just fine, as were they. We’re learning to be apart, not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically, too. The other piece of the book I’ve been absorbing is the importance of Individuation, or developing oneself, to the relationships we have with others, whether our children or our friends and partners. If we aren’t our full, true selves, we are less use to everyone, our children included. While this makes sense to lots of us on one level, it’s coming home to me slowly, not in the form of yoga classes or girl’s night out, which are ways I thought I might find my way home, but in figuring out slowly who I am and what makes me whole and alive again after such huge disruptions in the life my children and I once lead.

As I prepared our dinner last night, one kid fast asleep after spending his last night camping awake, the other enjoying the solitude of her own room after days of social time and campground living, I thought of the words my mom shared with me when I was mourning some early stage of parenting and my kids’s early life. “Every age is good.” she told me. So far, she’s been pretty much right. Other than a few minor bumps in the road, living life with and even increasingly without my kids has been good. We love each other whether we’re together or apart. We have rich lives, inside and out, as a family and on our own. If all goes well, those feelings will abide. Though it takes effort to imagine life without children under my roof, we’re headed there day by day. And this means I better get to know my Self, as she’s the gal who’ll stick around.

For now, though, I’m just happy to be more at peace in our home, not to feel so much that I’ve gone wrong or something’s missing, that the life we’re living is not right. “It is what it is” as my friend is fond of saying, another version of “just breath”, which was my earlier coping mechanism for dealing with the panic of major life disruption.

The T-shirt I used to wear with words from Ghandi, “Be The Change You Wish To See In The World” used to mean change the world. Only now am I beginning to see the world is right inside. Do you think that’s what Ghandi meant? There are always more layers of meaning to explore. Second half of life, here I come:) I mean, here I am..oops.

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